Recent attacks in northern Mozambique have been carried out by the homegrown Ansar al-Sunna group, which the U.S. State Department recently labeled as “ISIS-Mozambique.”
Multiple churches have been burnt, people beheaded, young girls kidnapped, and hundreds of thousands of people displaced by the violence.
“The Islamist guerrillas have set as their goal the creation of an Islamic state. And it has started in the north, but … they want to conquer the whole country,” Fr. Romano said.
“In the province called Cabo Delgado, the goal is to destroy the existing social fabric in order to be able to then rebuild it according to their designs.”
Nearly 800,000 people have been displaced by the violence in Mozambique, according to the United Nations’ Refugee Agency.
“In recent months, Sant’Egidio has tried to cope with the growing demand of internally displaced persons,” Romano explained.
The community, which is present in every province of Mozambique, has been distributing food and medicine to these internally displaced persons, only about 10% of which are in government refugee camps, according to the priest.
“The overwhelming majority of internally displaced persons are welcomed by the population itself, often by relatives, but in other cases by people who have decided to give their support to these, their brothers in difficulty,” he said.
Fr. Romano praised the Mozambican people for showing “great solidarity” with those affected by the violence. But he said that there were issues emerging because most of the displaced are not registered.
He noted that the Catholic community is particularly concerned about the disruption of education for the children displaced by the violence because unregistered internal refugees cannot go to school or access state services.
“We have many projects underway that we would like to carry out such as the one for the construction of some schools,” the priest said.
The Catholic group already has a program in place to register minors in Mozambique.